The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved a settlement with UGI Utilities Inc. that includes a $200,000 civil penalty, following a PUC investigation into an Oct. 31, 2011 natural gas explosion in Millersville, PA, that caused about $455,000 in damages to a home and a business.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the settlement, which, in addition to the civil penalty, included changes to UGI’s practices and procedures “to ensure that work crews were retrained regarding emergency protocol and receive additional education on excavation,” the PUC said.

The settlement calls on Reading, PA-based UGI to make a number of internal changes, including enhancing its internal line location screening system, reclassifying certain valves when they are reconnected to the distribution system, and auditing certain valves to make sure they are properly classified.

The explosion was caused when a third-party contractor digging in Millersville struck and ruptured a UGI gas main, according to a complaint filed by the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement. The PUC said UGI failed to properly mark its underground facilities and failed to have procedures in place to locate lines in certain circumstances.

“Although I am pleased with the remedial measures agreed to by UGI in the settlement, this case illustrates the importance of both facility owners and excavators meeting their obligations under the PA One Call Act,” said PUC Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr. The Act, which went into effect in 2008, requires all excavators to contact PA One Call at least three business days prior to excavation. “In Pennsylvania, third-party line hits of underground utility facilities have been and continue to be the leading cause of damage to utility infrastructure. To help avoid these hits, I urge utilities to be vigilant in complying with their PA One Call responsibilities, including those related to line marking.”

In January, the PUC approved a revised settlement raising to $500,000 the penalty on UGI Corp. for an explosion that killed five people in Allentown, PA two years ago (see Daily GPI, Jan. 25; Feb. 11, 2011). The settlement also called for the utility to replace all cast iron natural gas pipelines over a 14-year period and bare steel over a 30-year period; enhance its odorant testing program; and install fixed odorant level monitoring equipment at all third-party points of delivery into UGI’s pipeline system and fixed odorizers at gate stations serving Allentown, Lancaster, Reading, Harrisburg and certain other population centers in its service territory.

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